January 27, 2010
NASA to Use Monkeys in Radiation Experiments
The nation's space agency plans to carry out harmful experiments despite questions of relevance and inhumane treatment
The physical and psychological damage that doses of harmful radiation cause to monkeys is well known. Reactions can include vomiting, hair and tooth loss and lethargy. The animals often become so distressed that they self-mutilate.
Yet NASA has so far refused to back down from plans to spend $1.75 million to expose male squirrel monkeys to high doses of radiation in what they say is an attempt to learn how humans in space might react to long-term exposure to low levels of radiation.
There exists not only a discrepancy between exposing monkeys to one-time doses of high levels of radiation to find out how humans will react to low-doses of radiation over an extended period of time, but the agency also wrongly assumes that information gathered from the monkeys will translate to humans.
Other concerns include the already overwhelming amount of research that has been done on the subject and the likelihood that the radiation exposure will cause these highly intelligent and social animals to suffer severely.
In November, The Humane Society of the United States sent the government-run space agency a letter raising these and other questions and challenging the relevance of the proposed experiments. NASA has yet to respond.
“These experiments will not only sicken the monkeys but they will also be a waste of taxpayer money as well as NASA time and resources,” says Kathleen Conlee, director of program management for animal research issues at HSUS.